86,000 on trolleys in 2011
Over 86,000 patients were left waiting on trolleys in emergency departments (EDs) nationwide last year, new figures have shown.
According to the figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which carries out a daily 'trolley watch' survey, 86,481 patients were left on trolleys in 2011, a 14% increase on 2010's figure.
This makes 2011 the worst year for patients on trolleys since the INMO started its trolley watch records in 2004. For example, the records show that in 2007, just over 50,000 patients were left waiting on trolleys for a hospital bed. Last year's figure marks a massive 72% increase on that figure.
The INMO noted that the number of patients waiting on trolleys in the Dublin area fell by 6% in 2011 when compared with 2010. However, waiting figures increased significantly outside of Dublin during the same period. For example, in 2010, almost 3,500 patients were left waiting on trolleys in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. Last year, that figure rose to almost 7,500.
During the same period, the number of people waiting on trolleys in University Hospital Galway rose from over 4,100 to more than 6,500. While in the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise, the figure rose from just over 400 to almost 2,000.
In some good news, the figures revealed that the number of people waiting on trolleys in December 2011 fell by 13% when compared with December 2010. However, the INMO also noted that there are now over 2,200 closed public beds across the country. It also expressed concern that the HSE's 2012 service plan, which was published this week, confirmed the closure of a further 555 non-acute beds nationwide.
The organisation insisted that this will 'seriously exacerbate the existing critical bed shortage'.
Commenting on the figures, INMO general secretary, Liam Doran, said that the organisation had identified in mid-2011 that trolley waiting figures were at record levels.
"It is a reality that this level of overcrowding was as a direct result of a combination of increased demand for treatment, bed closures, cutbacks in community services and difficulties with the Fair Deal scheme," he explained.
He insisted that the HSE's service plan for 2012 would have 'serious implications for frontline services and, by
extension, the overcrowding that occurs in hospital emergency departments'.
"This is the fourth consecutive year of a real and substantial reduction in funding for our public health service. It is a situation which cannot continue as, regardless of improved efficiencies and new forms of service delivery, both the quality and quantity of health services will be negatively impacted," he said.
[Posted: Wed 18/01/2012]